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The Best of Bill Gates' Reddit AMA

Bill Gates has done a Reddit AMA before. That was a year ago, and given last week's news, his second AMA is a lot more interesting for those interested in the future of Microsoft. This AMA still focuses largely on the work Bill Gates is doing with his foundation, but there are quite a few questions about the future of Microsoft and Windows and how the company plans to progress. We've rounded up all the Microsoft-related questions below and thrown in a few that we think will matter to Microsoft going forward. Follow-up questions are indented. 

While Bill doesn't go into great detail about his new role at Microsoft, he does offer some insight into his thoughts on the cloud, the PC, and privacy. You can see the full AMA here.

Q: Can you describe your new role at Microsoft? (via KidneyStonesAreFun)

A: I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways. The OS won't just be on one device and the information won't just be files -- it will be your history including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up. I was thrilled Satya asked me to pitch in to make sure Microsoft is ambitious with its innovation. Even in Office there is a lot more than can be done.

Q: Yeah... Bill, I gotta ask you, what would you say you do there? (via 000000FFFFFF)

A: I make sure we pick ambitious scenarios and that we have a strong architecture to deliver on them. I encourage good work (hopefully).

Q: What is different about Bill Gates age 20 years and today, except for the time? (via _ssm)

A: Twenty years ago I would stay in the office for days at a time and not think twice about it -- so I had energy and naivete on my side. Now, hopefully, I am a bit more mellow but with a little extra wisdom.

Q: If you were a current computer science student, what area would you start studying heavily? If you feel like expanding on that, why do you think this area deserves the attention and how do you see it changing the technology game in the next 10 years? (via mrh3llman)

A: The ultimate is computers that learn. So called deep learning which started at Microsoft and is now being used by many researchers looks like a real advance that may finally learn. It has already made a big difference in video and audio recognition -- more progress in the last 3 years than ever before.

Q: How do you feel about the NSA and its oversight of computer usage? (via KipperTheCat)

A: This is a complex issue. Privacy will be increasingly important as cameras and GPS sensors are gathering information to try and be helpful. We need to have trust in the way information is protected and gathered. There is a role for the government to try and stop crime and terrorism but it will have to be more open. I do think terrorism with biological or nuclear weapons is something we want to minimize the chance of.

Q: Hey Bill, I'm actually an intern at Microsoft right now. How will your time be divided up between the foundation and Microsoft now that the CEO has asked you to step up. Also, could you host a talk for the interns? We'd love to hear about your work at the foundation and your thoughts on the future of tech. (via novaape)

A: My time will be about 2/3 Foundation and 1/3 Microsoft. I will focus on product work mostly.

Q: What smartphone and/or tablet are you currently using? (via h0ll0w)

A: I am using a Surface 2 PRO which works well for me.

Q: Hi Bill! What is your favorite project you have ever worked on at Microsoft? (via pcs199)

A: The Windows project which required a lot of patience was great. Office was also great. Together they defined the big success of the 1990s for Microsoft. Office connected to the cloud has a LOT of potential and we are off to a good start. Cloud Storage needs to be a lot richer though.

Q: [...] My questions: 1) How does Mr. Nadella's vision differ from yours and Mr Ballmer's? 2) A couple of articles I read recently mentioned that the board is going to be putting pressure on the new CEO to exit the devices business and focus more sharply on enterprise customers. Your thoughts on that? If it means anything, I am a huge fan of the Surface. Can't afford one, but I have used the first one. Hugely impressed. [...] (via AnalFissureSmoothie)

A: Satya is taking a fresh view of where Microsoft is -- strengths and weaknesses. A new person gets to step back and change the focus in some ways. He is off to a great start.

Q: Is the Desktop computer really dead? What does that say for the future of computer programming? (via pimple_poppins)

A: The boundaries between form factors is blurring, but the range of screen sizes and different input techniques will still mean there are desktop devices and wall devices. However, applications will be able to run across multiple devices including the whiteboard.

  • outlw6669
    Like any corporate communication it is quite light on details.
    Still, it is great PR.
    Reply
  • eriko
    Like any corporate communication it is quite light on details.Still, it is great PR.
    Yep - nothing for me there either.Nothing on the sea of complaints regarding Win 8, and its forced use / running of Metro. Why am I not surprised?If they thought Desktops were going away, we wouldn't be forced to run Metro at every boot. They know it is a significant market, and they want the prospect of getting up to pay them for their apps. No thankyou.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones
    "I am using a Surface 2 PRO which works well for me."Nice machine.SHOCK! MS want us to pay for apps and people don't... hang on... how do they use their Apple or Google tablet? Oh yeah they pay for apps.
    Reply
  • heero yuy
    "is the desktop computer really dead?"
    I'M SORRY BUT I CANNOT HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF MY DESKTOP COMPUTERS! (no really these fans are bloody loud D: )
    Reply
  • irish_adam
    "I am using a Surface 2 PRO which works well for me."Nice machine.SHOCK! MS want us to pay for apps and people don't... hang on... how do they use their Apple or Google tablet? Oh yeah they pay for apps.
    except that i have an android tablet and i have yet to actually pay for an app, you can get a free app to do basicly anything you need. That being said i would love an x86 tablet if i had that kind of cash to splash but i hate the idea of apps on it, i would want full programs just like i run on my desktop (otherwise wants the point in paying a premium price for x86)
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    "I am using a Surface 2 PRO which works well for me."Nice machine.SHOCK! MS want us to pay for apps and people don't... hang on... how do they use their Apple or Google tablet? Oh yeah they pay for apps.
    All tablets and desktop PC as well have free apps and programs, all also have pay for software. Tryingt to box in one versus another for free apps vs pay apps is a bit narrow minded. I have an Android tablet, a Windows PC, a Mac and a Windows Phone. I have only ever paid for software on the PC and Mac, and they were unavoidable. The Surface Pro is likely to continue to get thinner, lighter and more powerful as time goes on and I can see desktop PCs being replaced with docking stations very soon.
    Reply
  • Duckhunt
    deep learning? Hopefully they can make the desktop more relevant by making it more energy efficient. We don't have the handicap of mobility. I want the heat sinks on the motherboards be fused onto the case of desktop pcs. This cooling effect through out the motherboard means we can drive it harder. I hope the motherboard manufacturers are listening. Use the surface area of the desktops to reduce heat. The case alone is a gigantic possible heat sink. For the love of god. Do this and we will leave the laptops in the dust. I am so disappointed that I have to write this. geez. Wake up.
    Reply
  • Soda-88
    L...the sea of complaints regarding Win 8, and its forced use / running of Metro.
    Had 8/8,1 installed since release, can't quite recall the last time I've seen this Metro you're talking about.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    "is the desktop computer really dead?"I'M SORRY BUT I CANNOT HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF MY DESKTOP COMPUTERS! (no really these fans are bloody loud D: )
    Don't worry, there's plenty of good quiet fans out there waiting for you to order them. I myself prefer Noctua, but they are a bit pricey. :P
    I want the heat sinks on the motherboards be fused onto the case of desktop pcs. This cooling effect through out the motherboard means we can drive it harder. I hope the motherboard manufacturers are listening. Use the surface area of the desktops to reduce heat. The case alone is a gigantic possible heat sink. For the love of god. Do this and we will leave the laptops in the dust. I am so disappointed that I have to write this. geez. Wake up.
    Well, aluminum cases can reduce heat, but not in the manner or extent that you've suggested. We already have superior cooling to laptops, but it only gets you so far without resorting to expensive solutions. To reach higher speeds you have to bump the voltage, which causes power and heat to spiral up. After a while you start to suffer seriously diminishing returns. Plus, it's not enough to just conduct the heat into a metal 'sink. You have to transfer that heat out of the metal - the best way to do this is with lots of fast moving air. So it makes more sense to concentrate your heat into higher-efficiency heatsink with copper heatpipes, or a waterblock.

    Speaking of which, if you really want to improve cooling, there's always watercooling and other more exotic setups. So yeah, cooling is there if you want it... and it doesn't involve attempting to directly channel a processor's heat to the chassis at high cost and dubious benefit. I think the engineers involved in such things all over the planet have things pretty well in hand.
    Reply
  • amigafan
    I have a feeling Bill will do absolutely nothing meaningful in the Microsoft. He is just there as a morale boosting statue for others. He also doesn't seem very interested, it's more of a nuisance to him. He'd rather do his charity "work". I wouldn't be surprised if he knit some socks while in the Microsoft.
    Reply